Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Intentionally Homeless?

When I first heard the phrase intentionally homeless I assumed it referred to that tiny minority of homeless people who are impossible to house due to their substance misuse, criminal behaviour or inability to engage with services. Recently a story closer to home made me rethink.

Paul (not his actual name) was the first young person to lodge with me and was a fairly gentle introduction to my role as a Supported Living Carer. He had no complex needs, he had never been in trouble with the law and he was in full-time education. He was no more than vaguely acquainted with soap and his bedroom bordered on an environmental health risk but they are fairly typical teenage issues and things went fairly smoothly during his two years placed here.

His story prior to placement was a lot less eventful than many; he had been in a long-term foster placement most of his life and at 18 he needed a bit more freedom. Two and a half years after his arrival he had outgrown my home too, he wanted to bring girlfriends back to stay and come in whenever he wanted at night and at 20 that doesn't sound unreasonable so he progressed to semi-supported hostel accommodation for young people. So far, so good.

At this point things wobbled a bit, Paul didn't really stay in regular contact so I'm unsure of the details but about a year later he was asked to leave the hostel and he moved in with a newly discovered family member. He lived with her for about another year and then they argued and he was asked to leave there too. Then there was a homeless hostel, a bit of help from the council and fortunately, due to his un-troublesome background, he was found a room in a shared house. Successful end to the story.

Well it should have been except he's 23 at this point and still young enough to make a bad decision. He and his girlfriend were getting quite serious, she lived out of the area and encouraged him to move in with her. After living at his new address for about 3 months he left without giving the required notice because 28 days may as well be a year when you have to wait that long for the promise of regular sex. He moved in with the girlfriend and then they broke up eight months later. It was her flat so he was back to square one. Except this time the council won't help him as much as before because apparently he has made himself intentionally homeless

Now many young people of his age still live at home because rent costs so much but Paul doesn't have family to fall back on. He has sofa-surfed at a few friends' houses but even the best friend gets tired of that arrangement fairly quickly. He has spent a night or two in the homeless shelter and a couple more in the doorway of a local department store. Through very little fault of his own, due to being young and a bit too impulsive, he has become street homeless. It can happen far more easily than I imagined.

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